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Monday, May 20, 2013

What's So Funny About Swearing?

Carlin is in my all time top 5 comedians. I'm ...
George Carlin  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

         This post concludes my series on blue language or swearing.  If you did not catch the first two installments you can find them here and here.  There are many fine comments that are worth reading through on both posts.  In this post I will be looking at the humorous side of profanity and the right to swear.

Introduction:

         So far I haven't gotten many solid answers to my questions about swearing.  Maybe there are none.  I will somewhat concede that the utterance of a profanity can carry some impact in conveying emotion or emphasizing a point.  I'm not totally convinced about that.  A friend told me that in a former job in the security business he was instructed to use profanity when he was dealing with certain types of people since this would give him more credibility as an authority figure.  I'm still not totally sold.

         Other folks who defend the use of profanity said they use it because they want to--it's their right and they're going to use (abuse) it.   Sounds like a spoiled child syndrome to me.  This still doesn't sound like a convincing argument to swear.   Then there are those who just think swearing is absolutely hilarious.   This brings us to my next question:

What's So Funny About Swearing?

         Here we will look at the following aspects of blue language:
  • The humorous aspect
  • Devaluation of the impact of words
  • Degradation of the language
  • First amendment defense of swearing
The humor of swearing:
The words sound funny or create humorous images--To some at least.  It''s almost in an adolescent mindset of doing something naughty and getting away with it.  There can sometimes be a certain amount of  humor in this but mostly it's immaturity.
Delivery-- Granted that sometimes the way something is said can be funny.  It might even be funny for a few to several times.  But when the delivery loses its novelty it can get old and boring.
Element of surprise -- Humor is sometimes achieved by the unexpected or the shock value of the profanity introduced in an unlikely context.  Once again this might be funny to some, while in other cases it can be totally inappropriate.  Often the user will feed upon the first laugh response and run the joke into the ground. Excess is often the result of receiving the attention for doing something with no actual value.
Making others squirm -- Some people delight in knowing that others are uncomfortable.   Initially some might  feel it is wrong to do this, but if others are laughing then it must be okay.  Let's embarrass the church ladies, the conservative Christians, the prudes and then we can all laugh at them.  Maybe the bad words aren't really that funny but it's a real hoot to know that someone else is bothered by it.
Intellectual incongruity --When swearing is analyzed in an almost intellectual perspective there can be some genuine humor at play.  Comics like George Carlin could be very good at this.  Occasionally someone might make a crude observation or tell a dirty joke that is funny in a smart sense.  Context and company must be considered in order for this to be effective.
 Devaluation of the impact of the profanities:
The problem with profuse casual use of swear words or obscenities is that too much of anything causes dilution.  For those who like to use swear words for color, impact, humor, or to express that which they think cannot be adequately explained in other language, overuse of the crudities diminishes their value.  
Degradation of the language:
Blue language is not universally accepted or appreciated.  If this language pervades everyday speech we may have brought vocabulary down another notch.  There are enough dumb people in the populace who don't speak well.  Funny in one sense perhaps, but in reality I'm not sure it's truly funny.

The Right to Swear:

The First Amendment is often referred to as a freedom to swear:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Here's another more modern take on this right:


Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, states that:
"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
       So much has been written and can be written about the issue of swearing and first amendment rights.  I'm no legal expert and won't even attempt to go into the issue of the right to swear.  It would take many blog posts and probably an entire second blog to expound upon this subject. What I will do is offer a couple of things to think about. 

        For one, I would suggest that the strong proponents of swearing are often as hypocritical and self-righteous as those they suggest are that way.  Many of you who swear would be offended by someone else using epithets directed toward race, nationality, gender, or some other hurtful language.   But they're all just words aren't they? 

        Lets face it. Words can be heavily charged to offend and disturb others.  Are all words acceptable?  Is it always okay to say whatever we want when we feel like it just because we want to?  Should everybody just get over all of it?  If you can swear, can others throw things in your face that might offend you?

       Words.  Actions.  Images.  Who has the right to offend?   And what is truly offensive?

        We think of those who died for our right to live in a free society with the rights that most of us are fortunate enough to experience.  When the founding fathers of the United States drew up that first amendment, do you think they were thinking about things like swearing, obscenity, and pornography?  Yet isn't that what it's come to?

       Would you be willing to give your life or sacrifice the life of one you loved so that others could swear?

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45 comments:

  1. I don't think the founding fathers had things like that in mind at all.
    Say what we want when we want? All depends on what is PC at the time. (And that's a whole blog post by itself.)
    As for funny - Eddie Murphy Delirious was funny, Eddie Murphy Raw was not.

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  2. Absolutely not! The media and social media has made far too many things acceptable. I agree with Alex, this is not what the founding fathers intended.

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  3. The problem with words is that too many people don't know how to use them correctly, or, just as importantly, when to use them at all. Swearing certainly falls in the latter category. My feeling is that swears should be used sparingly, for emphasis and privately. I think the trouble is some people don't understand the difference between free speech and being polite.

    I actually swear too much (although not in public!) and this post is a good reminder to me to follow my own rule! Oh, and I did read that swearing after you've injured yourself is actually supposed to help!

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  4. A few years ago I worked at a summer camp where we did a talent show at the end of the summer. As MC, I and a couple of friends decided to intersperse some "fake news" ala Saturday Night Live throughout the evening. We were going for intelligent, witty, sarcastic, etc. The juvenile audience wasn't really with us. After one more joke we thought was great got a half hearted response one of my co-hosts said, "Watch this," and then he said simply, "Poo-Poo" at which everyone giggled and laughed. It was so telling about language and our use of it to me. It was surprising and juvenile all at once and to them it was funny. It also told us where our audience was coming from and it didn't bother us if our jokes were too high-brow, we were obviously missing our audience. But we didn't really care.

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  5. The only comedian who cussed and it didn't bother me was Richard Pryor. His stories just needed that edge. And I wonder why swearing only includes the Christian God. Do other religions use their god(s) so carelessly? I say, if we're going to blasphemy, why not choose another religion. For a while you could hear me shout "Holy Jihad!" if I stubbed my toe, etc. But then I realized I might be mistaken for a terrorist and so I quit. But really... no more denigrating our Lord Jehovah.

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    1. Jihad is one of the five pillars of Islam, not a god. You should really try to understand the religion you want to "blasphemy" it (not the correct usage of that word). Also no one with any sense would think you are a terrorist because 1) real muslims, even the extremists who have become terrorists, would never even think of using their God's name in vain and 2) your incorrect use and misunderstanding of the word Jihad only shows your ignorance of the religion and culture that you are attempting to degrade.

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    2. From my understanding of what the commenter has said that they were not using "Jihad" as a word for God but an arbitrary substitute for saying something like 'Jehovah" or "Jesus", but just a word from another religion so as not to abuse any names holy to a Christian. "Holy Jihad" sounds closer to the Christian related versions and indeed sound a bit more ludicrous and funny that saying "Holy Allah" which is more like a weird sound of alliterating than an actual oath. I think you have actually missed the point that the commenter was trying to make. Blasphemy and oaths in the name of God the Father or our Lord and Savior, the incarnation of God on Earth, Jesus Christ are not appropriate. To say lesser substitution words and phrases like nuts, fudge, shoot, gosh durn it, or Holy Jihad are perhaps crude, but better than using the Lord's name in vain.

      Lee

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  6. I think it all depends on what context the swearing is used, Films these days are full of it, but if it is used to hurt and upset someone there's a saying"If in doubt say nowt" but nowadays it can be written which is worse because unless it is destroyed you can keep looking at it.

    Yvonne.

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  7. Like a few other people have said I don't really think that there's anything funny about the act of swearing in particular, more the circumstances when it's used. It really depends because people's definition of funny differs obviously and that makes it a hard question to answer, personally I don't think that I often laugh at things just because of a swear word thrown in there but I guess that is does depend on the circumstances and situation.

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  8. Alex -- When comedy goes raunchy I tend to turn off my funny bone which in turn turns off whatever I've watching. Profanity for the sake of shocking humor does not make me laugh.

    Jenn -- I truly believe the First Amendment has been distorted to accommodate a lot of things that don't really have much to do with free speech.

    mshatch -- Overuse of anything desensitizes the impact. For a profanity to have impact it should stand out. If the words are overused then they are just meaningless filler.

    Ron-- Excellent example. We should aspire to bring people up to a higher level rather than descending to wallow in the mire with them. We should educate and elevate to contribute something to creating a better social mindset.

    Em -- I suppose profanity is prevalent in most societies and cultures, but if we cross a line from where we are we will be labeled racist, phobic, or something of that nature. Pryor lost me when he started resorting to profanity. I didn't like it. The funniest thing I remember seeing him do was on TV and he was describing an LSD trip. Funny stuff with not one profanity.

    Yvonne -- The foul words are really just not needed. In some rare cases a profane word can work because it is injected with meaningful intent. But when the words are just everywhere it's time to do some housecleaning of the language.

    Yeamie -- I think I give some pretty good reasons why these words are funny to some people. I wish more of us would be honest and consider the reasons and then evaluate their own language.

    Lee

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  9. Things that make me cringe...
    Standing in line and having to listen to someone in front of me tell a story. Why? Because they almost always say it loud enough for 15 people back to hear it!

    It goes something like this...

    So then, like, f@%*ing Tom come in and f@%*ing says 'No'. The the f@%* was he thing for f@%*sake.

    And it just goes on and on an on.

    I don't mind swearing but not for swearing sake.

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  10. ...but do you know the seven words you can't say on television?

    4 million words in the English language and you can say 3,999,993 on television.

    Those seven must be pretty bad words...

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  11. If we're focusing on why swearing is funny then I think it's the shock value. Like a joke where a sweet little old lady delivers an unexpected punch line with a profanity in it. But when comedians have to lace their acts with one swear word after another, it means their material isn't funny on it's own and they're using the profanity to keep you from noticing.

    This weekend I was at my grandson's bowling tournament and the couple young teenagers were sitting near us. One began telling the other a funny story and he was laying in an f-bomb after every third word. I finally turned and caught his eye. I stared at him for a moment until he realized why, then he said, "Oops, sorry." I thanked him and turned away and he managed to tell the rest of the story with no profanity at all. Interesting.

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  12. Lee-

    My little homage to George Carlin aside, I think the problem with banning any words is where does one draw the line?

    I am against laws regarding hate speech. Quite frankly, if the group it is aimed at is so darn thin-skinned that words are going to bother them so much, they have bigger problems.

    By our esteemed President's definition, why isn't rap music hate speech? Oh, because it just advocates killing white people-THAT kind of hate speech is acceptable.

    Whose definition of profane or offensive will we use?

    Use of profanity (which I have worked for years to overcome in myself) is often a product of upbringing or the environment you grew up in.

    My parents did not swear, but all of my friends did. I have worked for years to NOT drop an f-bomb in every sentence because for my first twenty-some years I did, except in my parent's house where I learned to be a expert on the taste of Ivory soap

    For most comedians, I would suspect that the profanity is not being used for the shock value as much as it is how they normally speak.

    I would encourage your readers to remember that most people saying the words are probably not aware that they are doing so.

    If you politely remind them there are children/ladies present, they'll probably react like the teenagers in Mr. Masterson's comment.

    Don't get in their face with a lecture or act like you're Chuck Norriss defending decency.

    If it were me and someone did that, I would start to lay on some real colorful language as bait...and I am a master at that.

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  13. I don't pretend to know what all the Founders had in mind when penning the 1st...but as with most sections of the Constitution and Bill Of Rights, it gets stretched to include every conceivable variable. the poor, the tired, the huddled masses of language so to speak.

    I loved the old George Carlin records as much as I loved the old Bill Cosby records. Both made me laugh hysterically via different deliveries and vocabulary.

    I do not enjoy be bludgeoned by swearing and would not enjoy a comedy routine or conversation based solely on that. However...I love the Big Lebowski and you have to be pretty tolerant of the F-word to get very far into it. Funny though, after a while, it doesn't even sound like cursing anymore, it's just another word used for emphasis.

    I would consider myself a "casual curser" and feel I use it to make a point without going all gangsta. I also respect who I am around and refrain when necessary.

    It's like many other things in life...cursing does not make you an adult, being an adult means you can manage yourself in this regard.

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  14. Wow, what a provocative topic. I agree with your points. We've become so desensitized to many things, not just our language. The value of life has little meaning to a whole generation.

    I, too, am guilty of turning the air blue on occasion. Usually when I'm terribly overtired. And a voice in my head always, ALWAYS points out how dumb I sound. I apologize (looking up), ask for forgiveness, and try again.

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  15. Southpaw -- I'm baffled by people who disregard the sensitivities of others to think they have the right to use whatever language they like whenever.

    LD -- I strategically placed swear word can be funny. You were right to tone down the language of the teens next to you. People need to learn public respect.

    Larry -- I have never said anything about banning any words (I don't think I have), but I'm all for promoting self-censorship and dignifying ones own speech. I think FCC bans are appropriate. The hate speech issue is very weird. If we're not supposed to use it then it shouldn't even be used by those who think they have the right to do so. If they're going to use it then it's open for anyone to use. My suggestion is that people think about their language and why they use it. When it gets to be so common in their conversation that they don't even notice they are doing it then I think that is problematic and a sign of somebody with an overly bloated ego who thinks they are above others. I would always ask nicely if someone was offending me--depending of course how big and bad they looked.

    Chuck -- Tolerance has two sides. I like your perspective of being an adult.

    Lee

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  16. Words Crafter -- Very true words. Thank you.

    Lee

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  17. I said before, I do swear now and again, sometimes without realising I am doing so, just a British way of talking, but I do try not to swear in front of people I feel it might offend and I certainly don't swear as much as I did when younger.

    I certainly don't think anyone has a right to swear, that's nonsense in my opinion.

    I try NOT to swear in my blog although there are quite a few bloggers who do and I'm afraid I tend to stop reading their blogs because of it.

    JO ON FOOD, MY TRAVELS AND A SCENT OF CHOCOLATE

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  18. i don't know...i've always cringed when i hear swearing. blame it on my sailor mouthed father. but hey, at least you got some good information to back it all up! :p

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  19. You make good arguments against swearing Lee. And I don't find the over use of swearing funny. Its ok a little at a time, but too much of anything is too much.

    .....dhole

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  20. ARLEE BOID ~
    You got some really good comments and viewpoints here.

    First, I would say that ANYONE who uses profanity on a normal basis, but who somehow manages to refrain from it when they are in the company of certain people (e.g., parents, grandparents, children) KNOWS, even if only subconsciously, that they are doing something wrong.

    I myself do occasionally (but rarely) use profanity in front of other people - but I am always conscious of WHO is there at the time. By my own analysis above, that means that deep down, I know I am wrong when I use that language.

    Also, on a conscious level, I know The Holy Bible pretty well, and as I commented on your 'A Few Words' blog the other day, I am more than a little familiar with the Biblical passages that warn Christ's people against using filthy language. And that's another reason I always have a guilty conscience when I use bad language in front of ANYONE.

    Is profanity ever funny? Yes, it is. On those few occasions when it comes COMPLETELY UNEXPECTED from a normally pure source, just the surprise of hearing it can make it seem humorous.

    And this I can't explain because I've never attempted to objectively analyze it, but for whatever reason, just about any time the actor RIP TORN swears, it makes me laugh. I really don't know why. Is it the WAY he emphasizes some words? Just seeing THOSE words come from a face that looks like that? I really don't know. But RIP TORN could probably stand on a stage and just run through all the profane words with no other context and it would probably keep me laughing.

    But R.T. is the ONLY example of that I can think of.

    Otherwise, I think foul language is rarely funny and never truly necessary. And I agree with your general assessment that Words Mean Something, and if they don't, then I should be able to say "N*gger", "B*tch", "C*nt", and "Wh*re" any damn time I feel like it, and no one should ever feel they have a right to be offended by them.

    I mean, they're "just words", right?

    And to a person like me, who believes in what God said in His Holy Book, the word "f*ck" is a filthy word for something that God intended to be beautiful and to have a spiritual connotation that most Americans today are totally unaware of.

    And, for the record, other than taking the Lord's name in vain (e.g., G*d-damn-it, J*sus Christ!), the word I find most offensive of all is "t*ts". Wow! Something God gave women to feed their newborn infants with, and people want to refer to them in such a vulgar manner? That really disgusts me.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

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  21. Terrific breakdown on swearing. You are quite the expert. When I was younger and more impressionable swearing comedians floored me. Now perhaps I am de-sensitized. Swearing does help relieve stress in frustrating situations, but all the negatives you mention make me not swear.

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  22. Are we now putting Obscenity, Profanity and Vulgarity under the same heading and calling it Swearing? Swearing means to use profanities, unless you are taking a legal oath or vow. Other words are either obscene or vulgar. God doesn't like any of it, BUT I'd sooner use an obscene or vulgar word than a profanity for my eternal sake....but I still go for none of it...

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  23. I guess I largely look at swearing as just language, but like all language, it has a very specific purpose, and if abused, it too much. I agree that it loses impact. I see the point of teens feeling like they need to experiment with it--I think they need to test the power of those words--see how they feel about them. I tried to counsel my teens about AUDIENCE... never to swear in front of kids, teachers, the decision makers in their lives--because the first should be protected and the others will think less of them. I told them other parents might not let them be friends with their kids... I think NOT making it a total tabboo helped--I don't hear either of my kids swear much.

    I think in every day society, a smart person uses very little, but I think in movies and books it is a helpful feature for getting across setting and character. My YA books sometimes use quite a lot of swearing (you don't have juvenile delinquents in a group home without it and still have a realistic story). If it isn't necessary, I don't use it, but sometimes it just fits the character or what the character is trying to establish.

    As for humor--I don't honestly like much, but there've been exceptions--it gets some things across well. Though I find it funniest from a really unexpected source--a little old lady or something.

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  24. OH! Forgot the founding fathers point... I believe our founding fathers had the brilliance to know society was moving forward. And if some of the disgusting, hateful stuff is meant to be defended, swearing certainly was. Intolerance is far more offensive to me and dangerous for the fabric of our society.

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  25. Interesting post! I think swearing has gotten old and out-of-hand. I think that every once in a while is alright, but certainly swearing to devalue someone or because you think it will look impressive to a higher-up is a silly notion! Then again, as someone in the field of elementary education, swearing simply cannot be on my radar.

    Cheers,
    Courtney Hosny
    http://www.oneweektocrazy.com

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  26. Jo -- I try to avoid swearing on my blog in most cases unless I'm trying to make a point about the word in particular. The way I see it, my blogs are on the internet almost like part of my resume. I don't want something of a bad character coming back to haunt me sometime in the future.

    Tammy -- I think my points have been difficult to dispute. I haven't seen anybody do it very successfully yet.

    Donna -- Anything can be run into the ground especially if it is somewhat grating to begin with.

    StMc -- You make some very good points, yet parts of your comment seem almost tongue-in-cheek. Rip Torn? His name alone is funny. Now I'll have to look him up since I can't place who he is. And I guess it could be argued that "t*ts" is pretty mild and perhaps shouldn't be considered as an expletive. It's just a variation on the word "teats". However I do understand what you're saying.

    Buck -- Now to find the words or actions that can effectively relieve stress, frustration, or pain without resorting to using bad language.

    Donna -- I have put "swearing" under the umbrella of many things as I explained in my first post. I'm using the term in a pop sense and an all-encompassing one so I don't have to keep repeating all the gradations and variances of the term. It's better to avoid the vulgar if there is a better term. It's like teaching our youngsters body parts and functions. Should we teach them the crude terms? Or the actual scientific terminology? What will make them more intelligent and come across as sounding more intelligent?

    Hart -- Part of my goal has been to illustrate that all language means something and has references to other things. We should become more thoughtful--especially if we are writers--about how we express ourselves and how others in society express themselves. I admire writers who can brilliantly convey things without stooping to the low level of crude language. If that is what readers are demanding then this is a sad statement on our society and partly the fault of certain writers that came before. Do we have the creative boldness to change this? And I'm quite certain that the founding fathers were not thinking of swearing or hate speech when they were drawing up the amendment. You have to think of the time from where they were coming and the events that had happened related to speaking out. Ironically, I find that the most intolerant people in our hemisphere are ones who swear a lot and have extremely liberal ideas. We are told otherwise by the media, but actions speak louder than empty media words.

    Courtney -- Swearing to impress someone higher up seems almost oxymoronic. Of course that is unless it's to impress someone higher up like older or more influential gang members or moral low-lifes--then it's just moronic.

    Lee

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  27. I think you pretty much nailed the "why" in your section about the humourous aspects. Especially the element of surprise and the art of line delivery...
    and nobody did it better than George Carlin ;)

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  28. Lee (and Stephen, since I think your first comment seems to allude to mine)-

    I would disagree with either of you that use of four letter words is a matter of right or wrong...but would agree with the many comments that indicate a sign of maturity is the control to not use such language.

    But for me, it really does "come naturally."

    Having just spent four days with three of my oldest friends, who pretty much cannot complete a sentence without saying f#@k, I can tell you that I was right back in that mode for the weekend, and took the better part of last week to get out of it.

    Did I turn it off in front of my parents? You betcha-I cannot stand the smell of Ivory soap to this day.

    In my mind (with the exception of taking the name of God in vain) these ARE just words.

    Just like 'nigger" is a word. And 'bitch' is a word.

    Words cannot harm just by being spoken. Only the listener gives them that power.

    Interesting discussion, but in the end...

    F$#k it.

    LC

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  29. Jackie -- The unexpected can often delight us and crack us up. Carlin added the intellectual aspect of making us think about what he said.

    Larry -- The aspect of right or wrong depends on how you measure it. The Bible specifically indicates that it is wrong, but if someone is not approaching it from a Biblical perspective then right and wrong gets pretty relative. As I have stressed previously, words carry meaning connected with emotion. I don't think we can realistically separate that. Maybe a few in their own minds can rationalize this, but certain segments of society have reactionary tendencies toward certain words. I would venture to say we all would have limitations regarding at what point certain words will affect us. Unless you're someone like Mr. Spock who can separate emotion and rationalize everything. I'd venture to say that there is no one completely like this and if there were they might be rather disturbing people to be around. Words convey thoughts and there are evil thoughts that we shouldn't be dwelling upon.

    Lee


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  30. Wow, you've really covered this topic from all angles. I am guilty of swearing, a lot. I know for sure that I do not do as a way of asserting my constitutional right to do so. I'm pretty sure I don't do it for humor. I honestly believe I've developed a bad habit of cussing (that's what we southern folk call swearing). I grew up hearing it, but my real potty mouth evolved while working as a prosecutor. The more police officers I hung out with or worked with, the worse it got. I'm not blaming them or saying that all law enforcement officers cuss or swear, but that's where my bad habit became a worse habit.

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  31. I don't thank any soldier currently deployed would say, "I'm here so that people can use the f-word freely." But freedom of speech means freedom of ALL speech, even that which we find offensive. "I hate what you're saying, but I will defend your right to say it." The problem is, our society tolerates EVERYTHING it seems, except Christianity. Try to speak out for your faith, try to hold the government accountable to have integrity and honesty according to the principles on which this country was founded, and you're knocked down. PC is the norm. Just don't try get tolerated for your faith, unless it isn't Christianity. If it's not, your fine. I think the truth frightens people. That whole part in John about the darkness not wanting the light because it exposed their deeds of darkness...
    Tina @ Life is Good

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  32. Melissa-- Very interesting. As I've stated previously, a friend of mine who was in law enforcement told me that he was instructed to use profanity when dealing with criminal types. Where is the example of rehabilitation if the cops are talking like the criminals? I've known some very upstanding cops who never used swear words and they came across as very cool and professional to me. I think you provide a good argument for law enforcement to come across a clean guys. They're supposed to be the good guys aren't they? They should speak that way. Words have meaning and evoke images. Thank you for this bit of insight.

    Lee

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  33. Tina -- You are very correct and I think that is the irony when certain people start talking about tolerance. For many tolerance is what they believe and does not include what certain others believe. Use of profanity has very little to do with beliefs. There is no way that I would give my life or sacrifice the life of one of my children or anyone else in order to allow someone else to use profanity. To me that is not a valuable right and it's not worth fighting for.

    Lee

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  34. Lee-

    Does the Bible specifically address anything other than blasphemy?

    I was unaware of that.

    LC

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  35. I see in Stephen's comment where he refers to Biblical passages warning people not to use filthy language-I may e-mail him separately and ask for the references.

    He and I have had discussions on profanity before and I'm surprised he'd never mentioned this to me (or maybe he did and I have forgotten).

    I'd made an effort to stop using foul language because of what it said about me to people who overhear it, not for any other reason.

    I have always struggled with trying to censor language because everyone's definition of offensive is different.

    I've laughed at George Carlin's "Seven Words" bit for most of my life. I laughed at Eddie Murphy, and I even chucked at some of Dice Clay's early stuff.

    I do not offend easy.

    That said, If the Bible defines offensive, I would certainly accept that definition, regardless of what I feel (although I'm holding onto my worn vinyl copy of George Carlin's "Class Clown").

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  36. You always make me think. My brain hurts :)

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  37. Larry -- See my most recent post at A Few Words. There are verses in my post and in the comments that I think pretty well covers the matter of speech. I think my argument about the use of what we think of as dirty words definitely would be included if we accept the fact that words have meaning, convey ideas, and suggest images. Let me know what you think. I don't offend excessively easy, but I recognize when things lack value and might have been done better. I enjoy Carlin's intellectual approach. I am still a fan of the films of David Lynch. I just don't watch and listen to these things over and over again.

    Carol -- Ah the old headache excuse again! My Monday goal on this blog is to stimulate thought and discussion.

    Lee

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  38. Lee-

    Just checked out your other post, and while I'd agree that fould language is frowned upon, I'm not sure I'd agree with the use of the word "wrong."

    Maybe I am hung up on semantics-I do have a tendency towards that.

    In any event, I certainly agree that it is best not to use such language, but I can tell you that as recently as ten days ago I was dropping those seven words you can't say on TV like crazy (while with my old friends) and not really cognizant of the usage of the language.

    I do think it is best, even in light of the Biblical passages you reference, for people to censor themselves rather than have it forced on them.

    Otherwise, we will all be following Uncle O'bama's definition of acceptable language.

    Fun topic-a lot of good discussion.

    "Some people say 'shoot' but they don't fool me....
    'Shoot' means 'shit' with two O's!
    -George Carlin

    I don't listen to them much either, but when he stuck to his observations on how we use words, Mr. Carlin was brilliant.

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  39. I have never found swearing funny, not even when in the hands of a master like Carlin. After reading your second and third post, as well as most of the comments, a question occurred to me: what is it about swearing or blue language (I like that term) that is so offensive? Personally, I don't like it and don't use it except on rare occasion, but I don't find it offensive. Just base. Unnecessary. Occasionally, when spouted by a very angry person, frightening (and then the swearing is a symbol not the object of my fear). I don't necessarily see it as bad manners because that depends on the context and culture. I do believe it is ineffective for getting what you want and sometimes damages relationships, especially in mixed groups where some people are offended by it. I generally don't take offense unless that is what's intended. As your second post lays out, there are many reasons why people swear, not all (perhaps not even most) have bad intent behind them. So why take offense?

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  40. Larry -- Did I respond to this somewhere else? Or did I start to respond here and lose it? The gist of what I had said that the language is wrong, but it doesn't make sense to force censorship on anyone.

    Jagoda -- I think offenses and the acts of the offenders come on so many levels and involve so many variances that your question has no simple answer. Some people have thicker skin than others, some verbal attacks are worse than others, place or time can have something to do with the level that one might be offended. Also we can define offense and postures of the reactions of the offended in different ways. I might smile at something somebody says to me but I can feel a strong sense of indignation that it has been said and be offended in my mind. I think it's reasonable to be offended by something that we are strongly against and people do it in defiance of our sensibilities.

    Lee

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  41. Ah, yes, when "people do it in defiance of our sensibilities" describes an intent that I too would find offensive. You are right that reasons for taking offense are complex because we humans are complex. Having worked with interpersonal dynamics as deeply as I have, I know that when people can learn not to take as many things personally, they suffer less. I also know that taking umbrage and making a stand over an issue connected to someone's values and beliefs is viewed as an important aspect of integrity.

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  42. Jagoda -- It's true that the majority of things others may say around us or in the media should be merely processed as objectively as possible. The irony that I find is that those who expect others to just deal with the way they talk or the things they say are the often the first to cry out against those others who offend them. Tolerance is very subjective and only seems appropriate when it deals with the other person being tolerant of our own beliefs and causes.

    Lee

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  43. I view swearing like other writing tool - it needs to be used when appropriated and not overused.

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Lee